It's a healthy week for new releases, with familiar names mixing with legendary artists, with obscure cult favorites battling High School Musical superstars--and perhaps best of all, hot new product with names like T.O.S. Terminate On Sight and Walk With Me In Hell!
And heck, that's just the Vanessa Hudgens album!
Luckily, other upbeat new titles such as Agony & Irony and the The Black Parade Is Dead provide the needed balance that all of us as music consumers need to get by as we seek entertainment in these trying times!
Golly! What say we all take some time to stop and smell the roses?
G-Unit: T.O.S. Terminate On Sight (G-Unit) I think G-Unit may be favorite rap group ever with that name--and why not? Clearly the heightened self-awareness they continue to demonstrate--via giving their new album a title mocking both the criticism they've received in England as "tossers" and their dissatisfaction with the current Terms Of Service offered by today's top Internet sites--proves them to be one of a kind! Additionally, their titular nod to Billy Joel--"Piano Man"--as well as thought-provoking album closer "Money Make The World Go Around" makes it clear in no uncertain terms that life is unfair any way you look at it! I'm thinking of voting for them in November!
Vanessa Hudgens: Identified (Hollywood) Must confess I had the opportunity to meet this little sweetie and--I guess I'm just a softie--I can't help wishing her a world of luck! Her new album pairs the teen queen with people like JR Rotem and Dr. Luke and seems a significant step upward for the fair lass, most notably on the delectably titled "Paper Cut," which is described as "heartfelt" in the accompanying promotional materials! My personal favorite, however, may be "Sneakernight"--and haven't we all been there?--about which Vanessa notes, "Dancing in sneakers makes it all the better. People haven't been able to see that side of me. I can kick butt!" As my pulse races, a dog howls outside!
Alkaline Trio: Agony & Irony (Epic) Talk about artistic growth! Finally on a major label, Detroit legend Kaline continues to follow his heart after what must now be perceived as his temporary fling with the Tigers! Those with long memories can't help wondering if standout tracks here such as "Help Me" and "Live Young, Die Fast" are as autobiographical as they sound--but then, likely as not, someone brings a 12-pack of Stroh's into the room and pesky bullets rain down through the roof and make everyone run for cover! Agony & Irony? It's Saturday night and where the heck did my paycheck go?
John Mayer: Where The Light Is: John Mayer Live In Los Angeles (Columbia) Though I'm a guy, I like John Mayer and his music and think he's got oodles of talent. Plus, he's funny. But I'm starting to think that after he hit it big with that track "Your Body Is A Wonderland" way back in 2001 he's, uhh, been putting out a lot of product without putting out a lot of product if you get my drift! A new double live album? What is this, maybe his fourth? Perhaps, as many have suggested, life might work out for the better if both he and Dave Matthews were mysteriously knocked out and then regained consciousness in a boxing ring--their gloves tied together with guitar strings--and both confronted their destiny while women of all ages sobbed and screamed in unison! Getting a new car might do the trick as well, though!
Lamb Of God: Walk With Me In Hell (DVD) (Epic) When I was a mere lad, my mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday and I told her I wanted Disraeli Gears by Cream. She wrote it down carefully, then went to my favorite record store and asked if they had the new record by "the Creams." Sadly, the misguided youths behind the counter found the poor woman's request hilarious and laughed uproariously. Ideally, these puds now have children of their own and now must go to Wal*Mart and sheepishly tell the store clerks they want something called Walk With Me In Hell. Surely today's hipper workforce will respond with a polite, "Thanks, I'd rather not," gleefully note that they're actually shopping at a Wal*Mart, and ask them if they're happy with the life they've lived!
Irmin Schmidt & Kumo: Axolotl Eyes (Spoon) A founding member of Germany's legendary Can returns here in full force with latter-day partner Kumo--and between the two of them, the music they make is lush, rhythmic, sophisticated and keenly intelligent. Plus, it sounds good! Also difficult to overlook: the accompanying bonus--a 122-minute "sound installation DVD" entitled "Flies, Guys And Choirs," with a superb 5.1 surround mix and, visually, a distinctly non-American Idol feel! If Justin Timberlake made a brand new record and then someone erased it, it wouldn't sound like this--but, all the same, wouldn't it be kind of funny?
Night Ranger: Hole In The Sun (VH1 Classic) The first new Night Ranger album in a decade? I too am thrilled! I'm also fascinated that according to Amazon, 13.7% of the people who bought this hot new disc bought it in tandem with Motley Crue's Saints Of Los Angeles! Hey, what's the hair products breakdown, dudes? Like you, I may have missed Night Ranger's logo most of all--but the new acoustic version of "Sister Christian" is pretty swift too, if you like that sort of thing! That said, I did find the threatening undertone of "You're Gonna Hear From Me" somewhat off-putting, but perhaps it's my imagination!
Hugh Hopper & Yumi Hara Cawkwell: Dune (MoonJune) Arty, experimental stuff from former Soft Machine bassist Hopper and vocalist Cawkwell that recalls the textures of his classic 1984 solo album but is about as forward-looking as anything you've ever heard. Overdubs galore, tones and timbres all over the place, Dune is serious music that verges on the spellbinding. Highly recommended, from the ever-groovy MoonJune label.
My Chemical Romance: The Black Parade Is Dead (CD/DVD) (Reprise) My Chemical Romance! Live at last! Again! Featuring two performances--in Mexico City and New Jersey--this disc has been referred to by some as "the final nail in The Black Parade's coffin" and the means by which the band can "ceremoniously end the era of The Black Parade." All of which I find confusing, since that's the name of the album they just released in 2006! A couple of years ago! What? Was it a bad idea or something? They don't like it anymore? So, er, why bring it up, guys? I wasn't even thinking about it! Maybe I'll go back and listen to it and see what was so bad about it! Yeah, I was gonna go to the record store and buy this, but now I've changed my mind! Where'd I put that thing? (mutters) Dopes!
Kansas: Two For The Show (Sony Legacy) In many ways similar to the new project by My Chemical Romance, this two-disc enhanced set celebrates the 30th anniversary of this historic live album by early emo-rockers Kansas! Highlighted by self-loathing classics such as "Closet Chronicles," "Hopelessly Human" and the immortal "Dust In The Wind," the collection alternately points out man's inhumanity to man and--in the much-loved "Point Of Know Return"--uses an unnecessary "K"! As do I!